My Jewish Name
THE NAME "SHIFFRIN" "Shiffrin" means handmaiden. Shifra is the name of the Egyptian woman who, along with Puah,
saved the first-born Jewish boy babies from extinction, thereby insuring the Jewish lineage…
The Shiffrin name came to be used in the town of Zjembin in Belarus, in the beginning of the
nineteenth century. Before that, Jews of Eastern Europe did not have surnames, nor did they
actually reside in Russia until Poland was annexed. Then, for tax purposes, names were required.
The council of Zjembin, of Belarus, decided on Shifra, or handmaiden, in honor of the women who
saved the Jewish people.
What follows are essays, poems of Jewish reference and stories Ms. Shiffrin had no context for,
before earning a doctorate from The Union Institute and University in Ohio. The material here
is inspired by the trends toward inclusion and multiculturalism in higher education, coupled
with a need to know more about her own heritage.
About the Author:
Ms. Shiffrin has presented her work on Jewish literature and Jewish identity at The Workman's
Circle, The National Women's Studies Association, The Western and Mid-Western Jewish Studies
Associations, The Santa Monica Public Library, The Beyond Baroque Foundation, The Society for
Humanistic Judaism, The University of Northern Iowa. Her essay, "Resisting Rome: The Gift
of Muriel Rukeyser's Jewishness" received honorable mention in the Dora Teitelboim Foundation
Jewish Cultural Writing Contest in 1998 and was published in The Canadian Jewish Outlook.
From the Book: